Residents of Leguan have asked that their Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) be dissolved saying that they are not satisfied with the performance of the “super four” group of officials that run local government affairs on the island.
Only four of the prescribed 18 members remain on the council with some having died and others migrated. As a result, 20 residents had petitioned the Ministry of Local Government saying that they were dissatisfied at how the business of the NDC was being conducted and asking that it be dissolved and an interim management committee installed. The council has not been replenished as local government elections have not been convened since 1994.
An inquiry was ordered and Senior Regional Development Officer in the Ministry, Puran Persaud, was appointed Commissioner. Persaud met with residents at the Leguan NDC boardroom yesterday and is expected to submit a report to the Minister next week following which a decision will be made on the future of the council.
In the over three hours-long meeting, residents told Persaud that they do not feel adequately represented by the four NDC members. Out of nine constituencies, only three are represented on the council, the Inquiry heard. Since the four members do not constitute a quorum, several of the 28 attendees at the meeting, also questioned the legality of decisions made.
One resident who is attached to the Regional Democratic Council told the Inquiry that the NDC has not been meeting for a long time and enquired whether the decisions made at meetings were “unlawful.”
“If you do not have a quorum that meeting has no authority to make decisions,” he said. He said that there was poor management because with only four members, the council is not in a position to understand and determine the problems faced by islanders. He also charged that the NDC does not have “proper understanding” of the geographical layout of Leguan. “Many things are left undone,” the man said.
He said that as an official of the Region, many residents have complained to him about poor drainage and the maintenance of streets which are issues that are supposed to be tackled by the NDC. “Leguan NDC fails miserably to provide these services to the residents of Leguan,” he said. “(The) NDC is in no position to make any rules or laws to be implemented on the residents of Leguan based on they don’t have a quorum,” he added.
Persaud, in response said that he supported the point about the quorum and agreed that the NDC should comprise representation from the entire geographic location. An overseer should also have a fair knowledge of the area, he said.
Another resident, a librarian also raised issues about the quorum and said that decisions made are not implemented. “I know a council cannot run with a few people,” she said. “Decisions made at this table are not being carried out by this council,” she added.
This is illegal!
Farmer, Abdool Sharp was critical of the fact that local government elections have not been held since 1994. “This is illegal! That is illegal,” he exclaimed referring to NDCs. “Me feel the people should choose who they want,” he said. Another resident, Jad Sharp blamed the current composition of the council on the failure to have local government elections. Poor rates collection is a major contributor to the poor functioning of the council, he added. Questions were also asked about how an Interim Management Committee (IMC) was going to be constituted and Persaud referred to a “gentleman’s agreement” between the different political parties and groups.
Bibi Khan said that the “depleted” council is unable to perform effectively and she also cited the lack of representation of different groups such as women on the council. “It should have representation from all sections,” she said. She urged that an IMC be appointed until elections can be held.
Persaud noted the problem with the collection of rates and taxes. He said that the NDC gets $3M a year from central government while the rates the NDC is supposed to collect for this year is $11.4M. As at July, he said, $3M was collected leaving a major portion to be collected in the remaining four months. He also pointed out that from last year going back; the council was owed $9.6M with only $2.9M collected up to July.
Other residents raised issues about the lack of recreational facilities, drug and alcohol use among children and the state of the sanitary facilities at the Eastern Leguan Primary School, among others. Nobody is against the present personnel but the problem is lack of representation, one man said. For some of the problems, Persaud spoke with a local official who promised that some action would be taken.
NDC Chairman, Durga Persaud said that they are “trying our best” and declared that the council implements its decisions. “Definitely we need more representation,” he agreed.
He said that the issue of rate collection was “worrying.” How the council could collect the rates was also discussed with outreaches, community meetings and legal action being among the options discussed.
In summing up, Persaud said that representation is the main issue raised and emphasized that no one said anything about financial irregularities. He said that the Leguan NDC is one of the few that has been submitting the minutes of its statutory meetings and its “financial statements every month in the required format”.